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The Brilliance of John Lam and the Charity That Changed His World

By Jonathan Lambert j.lambert@classicalite.com on Jul 20, 2014 02:19 PM EDT

If you're a fan of ballet, then chances are you're already familiar with the super talent that is John Lam. At just 29-years-old, the artist has seemingly redefined the world of dance, yet--somehow--he has remained a humble, caring man that jumps at the opportunity to praise the charity that first gave him his start--Performing Stars of Marin.

In the world of Arts, many top performers come from rich families of wealthy communities who can provide their children with the resources necessary to create a career--or at least the ability to pursue one.

John Lam is the exception to the rule.

Though you could never tell it from looking at his life now, the superstar soloist came from truly humble beginnings.

Growing up in the Canal District of San Rafeal, California in a Vietnamese-Chinese household where both parents were Vietnam refugees, one wouldn't likely presume that Mr. Lam would become one of the most revered solo dancers of our generation.

But that's exactly what happened. And while no one can take away the tremendous amount of talent and hard work it took Lam to get where he is, even superstars need some guidance.

That's where Performing Stars of Marin comes into the picture. The California-based charity specializes in exposing low-income and multicultural children to the arts--a group that may not have the means to do so themselves.

At just four-years-old, John enrolled in a dance program with the charity, whose mission statement reads:

"Performing Stars transforms the lives of low-income, primarily multicultural, children throughout Marin County by using enrichment programs to build pride, character, discipline and self-esteem. Our programs help youth develop good work habits and positive social skills, enhance academic performance and professional readiness, improve critical thinking and communication skills, and gain the confidence they need to overcome the limitations imposed by poverty."

His life would forever be changed. And just because John has become a superstar in the world of ballet, he hasn't forgotten the incredible role that Performing Stars played in his life:

"My journey to becoming a professional ballet dancer all started with a seed planted by my inspiration from the Performing Stars of Marin. I believe there would have been little chance that I would become such a fulfilled human being and dancer without having been introduced to this awesome organization and its dance program...Performing Stars opened the door to my ever growing love for dance, and I shall be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a participant and product of this fantastic organization."

Since then, John has accomplished the unthinkable. He attended the Marin Ballet School on full scholarship before continuing his education at the revered National Ballet School in Canada, where he also received a full scholarship.

Eventually, he found himself a soloist at the Boston Ballet, an organization he has called home for more than a decade now. Though as impressive as that title is, it may not be the thing he is most proud of these days.

In a recent interview with Out Magazine, Lam revealed that he is now a proud father of a nearly one-year-old child--Giovanni, lovingly referred to as little Gio.

After marrying attorney John Ruggieri back in 2010, he knew that a child was in his future, and on August 13, 2013, he became a proud father. This was inevitable, as Lam explained to Out:

"I've always wanted kids. Having our own baby is, like, awesome. [Being a dad] is a job and it's hard but at the same time, it's not. I enjoy it."

Lam must enjoy it, because he and Ruggieri are already talking about expanding their family. There are some obstacles, however, which underline problems many gay couples still face today:

"My husband and I are definitely hoping to begin that process...IVF is a pricey ticket, and especially for gay families where it's not covered through insurance. But we want to do it, and we want to do it soon."

Based on everything John has accomplished so far, there's no doubt that he will overcome this obstacle as well.

And so, undoubtedly, will Felecia Gaston, who founded Performing Stars back in 1990. Her passion for overcoming economic disparity and her drive to expose children from all backgrounds to the arts has been well heralded.

She was, after all, labeled the hero of Marin by Pacific Sun. After 24 years of continual dedication, Gaston has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

And that's a very good thing.

The hours are long and the job is as difficult as it is rewarding, but it is critical to the success of future artists and--to a much larger extent--arts as we know it.

To help Felecia continue her mission, please consider donating to her charity which has inspired so many children over the years. The process is simple and your donation is totally tax-deductible.

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TagsBrilliance, John Lam, charity, Changed the World, Performing Stars of Marin, Ballet, Boston Ballet